I enjoy my first game from Atari.
I shoot ships and am not even sorry.
I’m a bringer of doom;
Ducks and faces go boom
In this air and sea battle safari.
Like a singing nun once said, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.” Air-Sea Battle for the Atari 2600 was my video game debut on the initial console I played, set up for me by my uncle when I was just three years old. Plus, it was a launch title for the system, so we got a lotta firsts here. It’s easy enough for someone very young to grasp and still enjoyable and challenging for grown-ups. And now that it’s been ported via Atari Flashback Classics, it’s more accessible than ever.
It’s a fixed shooter, so I guess it was broken at some point. Ba dum tss! Gameplay is split between shooting targets upward as a submarine or ship and downward via airplane. There are several different modes of gameplay, such as firing up at targets or being in a boat trying to take down your opponent in a plane above. However, it always boils down to hitting targets without too much variance, so you’ll never enter a stage wondering what you’re supposed to do. No power-ups, techniques, secrets, or anything of that nature- just a basic but well-built shootfest. The background is a beautiful horizon which is fitting because everything moves horizontally. Enemies include the following:
Thing from The Addams Family,
and today’s episode is brought to you by the letter A.
Oh, and don’t forget floating ducks, rabbits, and faces, too.
After getting hit once, they all briefly transform into TIE fighters before disintegrating.
Despite having very few, the sound effects are clear, classic, and fitting while providing enough genericism to be applicable to many sources; if mice pooping was an auditory ordeal, I could easily imagine it being reminiscent of this game’s torpedo launches.
Each round of blasting lasts 2 minutes and 16 seconds. Why that amount, you ask? Because 2 minutes and 15 seconds would be too short! Duh. One style of play keeps your shots moving in the same direction while another allows your explosives to be steered post launch. Shots cannot be fired nearly as fast as you can tap the button, and it’s easy to point the cannon in the wrong direction before you get used to it, but it all works pretty well. For a greater challenge, your missiles can be reduced to ¼ their original size.
The challenge is well balanced. It’s generally not hard to hit targets, but it’ll definitely take good practice to avoid a bunch of misses. Winning is all about getting a high score, and destructible obstacles block your shots that give nothing. You can play against the game itself or a friend, but the latter amplifies the fun factor greatly. Young or old, newcomers would probably be on par with each other, so it’s a great source of competition for most any player duo. The computer can easily pull ahead if you get lax, but your fecal matter can pull ahead if you get Ex-Lax, so choose carefully. Don’t expect too much complexity from the A.I., though; it just keeps firing away and doesn’t really utilize the guided missile control.
There’s no plot, not even in the manual, but I imagine it would be something like, “One day, some trained pilots lost their minds and decided to compete in blowing stuff up.” Bottom line, though, with a plethora of mode variations, multiple difficulty settings, crisp sound and graphics (even if you can’t tell what some objects are), multiplayer capabilities, and rather functional gameplay that still manages to be fairly fun today make this an impressive beast, especially for its time. The fifth element summed this title up best when she said, “Big bada boom.”
Well, I gotta get going. I just heard some mice launch a few “torpedoes,” so I’ve got a little cleaning to do. Thanks for reading, and God bless.
Graphics and Sound- 7/10
Difficulty Balance- 10/10
Very foxtastic indeed!
Next time on The Bad Wordplayer:
A baseball association struck out after fans caught them stealing victories, so they pitched a solution totally out of left field.